It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is the Coin.
In China, from around 1200 BC , the cowrie shell was used as an item of exchange – ‘shell money’. archaeologists’ finds suggest that from 1000 BC the Chinese began to produce mock cowrie shells made of metal. Bartering had two distinct disadvantages – the person wishing to ‘buy’ may not have anything the ‘seller’ wished to acquire, and even if they could agree on a trade, the haggling process was time consuming. Coins offered a solution in that they represented fixed values and could be exchanged not for their intrinsic value, but in order to change hands again in payment for some other goods. An appreciation of the value of metals such as gold and silver had already developed. Since these metals were durable, portable and demand for them remained constant, they were a natural choice for use as a common currency. The value of a coin depended upon its weight and metal content. The idea of using coins quickly spread to Greece, and because the early Greeks were keen traders throughout the Mediterranean, coinage spread around the region. Alexander the Great minted vast quantities of silver coins, using them to pay his armies and keep them loyal. It is believed that this significantly contributed to his ability to expand across three continents.
Contribution to Retail History
Coins increased social mobility and opened up trading opportunities between cities, nations and continents. Signifying a token of trust, with a stored value that was redeemable over time, coins enabled traders and customers to conduct a ‘fair exchange’ of agreed, recognised worth.
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